A letter to my 22-year-old Self

By Marci Ansen
Dear A

I’m writing to you at 66, just a month or two after P and I celebrate over four decades together. Yes, we are still together, we are very happy, we love each other, we still make each other laugh, and we (usually) have plenty to talk about.

But I need to talk you about the dressing. I’m afraid it’s never going to go away.

I know, I know, you and P are deeply in love – though at the same time dealing with the challenges and issues of a committed live-in relationship (and you’ll be married in just over a year) – but feeling you’ve managed to put all that silly girly dressing nonsense behind you.

Here's my thoughts and reflections on whether I should have revealed my crossdressing urges to P early in our relationship. Recently I've been thinking (and I have told her this) that I greatly regret not revealing this to her early on.

Of course, I had perfectly good reasons for this, including being in denial (at the time, I firmly believed that now I had a stable, loving relationship, I had no need for this "dressing" nonsense), and the absolute terror that she would run a mile if I told her (which she agrees she probably would have).

Also, this was the late 1970s, a time when crossdressing was highly stigmatized and ridiculed, both generally in society, and also in the media, movies, TV shows, etc.

But I now believe it was wrong of me not to have told her; it wasn't fair on her, and I feel it was a betrayal on my part. But on the plus side, we've had a long (over 40 years), almost entirely happy, and strong relationship, and two great kids (now grown up). We are great friends as well, make each other laugh, share similar tastes in books, long-form TV shows and movies, largely agree politically and have great conversations and discussions.

Would either of us have been any happier with other partners? I don't believe so. As a result of writing this, I've given a lot of thought as to the consequences of telling her back then. If we'd split up, we both may have ended up with other partners who didn't suit either of us very well; if I'd had a strong negative reaction from one partner (whom I loved deeply), would I ever have told any subsequent ones?

So, on further reflection, telling her at that particular time would almost certainly not have had a good outcome. But I still feel I let her down by not being honest with her.

And despite everything that's gone on, even in the past few years since I revealed this side of me (a pretty traumatic family situation developed where I felt I had no choice but to do so), our relationship is deeper and stronger; we tell each other, and others, that we are winners in the "relationship lottery".

On the other hand, she wishes that I wasn't like I am, and that she could just press a button and I could stop, though she recognizes that can't happen. I argue that this part of me makes me the sort of partner that she actually likes to be with (and she can see that point too).

One thing I've realized over the years is that this is an integral part of me.

As you’d remember of course, we/I first had fantasies/thoughts of dressing as a girl when we were about 4 or 5, though of course we never acted on them until puberty, when they manifested in fetishistic behavior (including a relatively short period of wishing most nights that we would wake up as a girl), along with those horrible feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing, despair, etc (and they took a long long time to go away(.

In the years since, I've purged a few times, sworn I'd never do it again, only to be drawn back to it all. I've come to recognize it's something that never goes away.

It could even be genetic; you’ll be amused to hear that our (pretty macho, we always thought!) Uncle W turned out to be a "gender bender" (as cousin N and his partner referred to him at his wake!), wearing stockings and women's boots under his trakkie-daks in the nursing home, along with lots of pics of post-millennial trans* models such as Andrej(a) Pejic in his room.

Only after having come out to P, and having a degree of acceptance from her that this is a part of who I am, have I begun to dress more, work on my makeup and outfits, and experiment with different looks.

At the same time, the fetishistic impulses have died right away, and I just enjoy the hell out of getting dressed up and presenting as female for a few hours.

I probably don’t really pass, but I reckon I look pretty good, and you know what: I don’t care.

I feel more confident, powerful (I really, really, REALLY love wearing 4 to 5 inch, even 6 inch, heels, and striding out as a 6'4'' tall female), and way more attractive; I even feel "cool" for the first time in my life (I often feel embarrassed, certainly self-conscious when I catch my reflection in a mirror or window in guy mode; when dressed, I can't look at me enough!).

After my coming out, we had some counseling with a psychologist, which helped us both a lot.

We were lucky in that we had a long-time family GP, gay himself, and loved by all of us; I met with him and told him what was going on, his response "what's the big deal". He then recommended us to a psychologist with experience in sexuality issues. She was great.

I've been able to reassure P I'm not gay (a particular fear of hers in a partner), and I don't want to transition. I like being a guy, and having all the (physical) bits that entails. However, today I do sort of identify as being on the trans spectrum; if pushed, I'd say 20-40%, taking a line from 100% male to 100% female.

But I don't like being around alpha males, so avoid them as much as possible (but I’m afraid you’re going to be stuck dealing with heap of them over the coming decades.

I really intend to call out misogyny and sexist behavior wherever I see it from now on; I’ve let this slide too much when I’ve been around it over these past four decades.

P does really love being with a person who has those sorts of attitudes (though I still have to be constantly on the lookout that my white male privilege isn't reasserting itself again, and again, and again). I've told her she can call it out any time it manifests.

I see the patriarchy as basically having no redeeming features, and the mindsets and attitudes behind it as being the main contributors to the crap situation the world has gotten itself into today; you won’t believe some of the shit that’s going down.

For the rest of my life, I intend to do my best to challenge and question the patriarchy in all its forms. I'm probably a bit obsessive about this now.

I’ve also come to strongly believe that gender is a societal construct. Sex attributes yes, are more or less binary for most people (with some very honorable exceptions), but I truly hope that gender and sex roles will become increasingly irrelevant as humanity "progresses". Probably a matriarchy would be preferable.

But can you believe that as of 2018, Australia has finally “legalized” (as if it should have had to) same-sex marriage – though a host of other countries, including NZ, the US, UK, Ireland (yes!), Spain and Germany all have.

In November 2017, we had a postal “vote” to finally “give” our politicians the go-ahead to legalize same-sex marriage.

We were passionate (and public, including signs on our front fence at home) supporters of this marriage equality YES vote. The NO vote crowd kept talking about how a yes vote, and then legalization of same-sex marriage, will lead to a slippery slope, including blurring of gender roles and lines. As if there were anything wrong with that...

For me personally, if everything were ideal, here's what I'd wish for:

• The freedom to get up each day and present in whatever way I felt like that day (including my different female personas)

• To occasionally go shopping, to shows, art galleries, museums etc, en femme with P (as well as in guy mode of course)

• To gob smack friends by turning up at an event (party or dinner or something) looking completely totally and utterly fabulous (as I know I can!)

• To have all the time I need to develop my creative ideas, and use them to explore themes of gender, aging, beauty, male/female power structures and relationships, politics, toppling the patriarchy and more.

Will all those things happen? Probably not, but some will. And at least I can keep dreaming.

All the very best to you.

Enjoy your life, and make the most of it. And know that it’s never too late to reset things. What comes from that may surprise you.

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